CLEARFIELD – Two teens convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole will have to be re-sentenced due to a Supreme Court ruling.
Jessica Holtmeyer, 16 years old in 1998, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for the death of Kimberly Dotts and Andrew Callahan, 17 years old in 1997, was convicted of the murder of Micah Pollock.
In June the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that juveniles convicted of first-degree murder can only be given life without parole sentences in rare cases when “the juvenile offender is permanently incorrigible and thus is unable to be rehabilitated,” according to court documents.
Status hearings in the Holtmeyer and Callahan cases were scheduled for Monday with their attorneys, District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr. and Senior Judge Daniel L. Howsare of Bedford County.
Howsare was appointed to preside over the cases after President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman was recused from the cases in November of 2016, according to previous reports. After meeting in chambers, the judge, Shaw and defense counsel, discussed the cases in court.
Shaw detailed the situation by explaining the U.S. Supreme Court determined life without parole for juveniles was unconstitutional. (The ruling is retroactive and affects all previous cases with this sentence).
The individual states then had to come up with a framework on how to handle sentencing if a juvenile is convicted of murder.
These two cases have been waiting on a decision in the Commonwealth v. Qu’eed Batts case to know how to proceed. That decision came in late June.
The Commonwealth now has the burden of proof, Shaw explained. To receive a life without parole sentence, the prosecution will have to show that the defendant is incapable of rehabilitation. This can involve expert testimony and testimony from witnesses. Both cases will have re-sentencing hearings.
Shaw made a motion to ask the state prison at Muncy to release the complete inmate file on Holtmeyer to him. Shaw will then pass this information onto Holtmeyer’s attorney, Pat Lavelle. Lavelle asked for funds to hire a specialist to testify at the re-sentencing hearing. Both requests were granted.
For the second case, Callahan’s attorney, Shawn McGraw, asked to amend the current Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) petition in his case. Shaw will then have 30 days to respond to that paperwork.
Shaw will ask the Department of Corrections to release Callahan’s complete file and McGraw also will have funds to hire a specialist in his case.
Howsare stated that another status conference will be scheduled in both cases in 120 days.
According to the Supreme Court opinion, the new sentences will be set by sentencing guidelines of a minimum of 25 years in prison for a first-degree murder committed by someone less than 15 years old and a minimum of 35 years for someone between the ages of 15 years old and 18 years old.
Testimony in Holtmeyer’s trial revealed that she and Aaron Straw hanged Dotts twice because they were afraid she was going to snitch on their plans to run away to Florida.
Holtmeyer, now 35, was also convicted of smashing Dotts’ face with a basketball-sized rock while the girl lay convulsing on the ground after the second hanging.
Callahan, who is also 35 now, was convicted in two additional trials (2007 and 2010) after his appeals for new trials were granted.
This murder took place in Pine Run, Beccaria Township. Testimony in the trial included information that Callahan had threatened to kill his Glendale High School classmate, Pollock if he did not stay away from his ex-girlfriend.
The day after shooting Pollock in the back, Callahan returned to where he had buried Pollock with pine branches. He tried to stuff the body in a garbage can but when it did not fit, he tied it to a vehicle and dragged it to a beaver pond where he dumped it.
Two other Clearfield County cases will potentially be affected by the Batts case.
Daniel L. Crispell, then 18, now 46, was convicted of murder, kidnapping, robbery and related charges in June of 1990 and given the death penalty.
The charges stem from an October of 1989 incident in which Crispell and Christopher Weatherill abducted Ella M. Brown, 48, at the DuBois Mall. Her body was found a day later in Sandy Township about four miles north of DuBois. She had been stabbed to death.
Timothy Hanson, then 15, now 45, was convicted of criminal homicide after a jury trial on June 24, 1988, and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
According to court documents, on Dec. 24, 1987, Hanson, who was on the run from a juvenile facility, shot and killed David Smith at a residence in Philipsburg.